The FDIC’s insurance fund, which it uses to pay off despositors in failed banks, is getting low. One way it can bolster its reserves is to draw on a $100 billion line of credit from the Treasury. Instead, however,
Senior regulators say they are seriously considering a plan to have the nation’s healthy banks lend billions of dollars to rescue the insurance fund that protects bank depositors. That would enable the fund, which is rapidly running out of money because of a wave of bank failures, to continue to rescue the sickest banks.
A brilliant scheme to avoid another taxpayer bailout? Not really.
The banks are willing to lend because the FDIC will pay them a good interest rate. Repayment is virtually guaranteed because the FDIC can always draw on its line of credit. Thus the banks are getting a better deal than they would in the marketplace (that’s why they are doing this), so the scheme is a backdoor way of further bailing out the banks.
Why go through this charade? Apparently, using the Treasury credit line
is said to be unpalatable to Sheila C. Bair, the agency chairwoman whose relations with the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, have been strained.
“Sheila Bair would take bamboo shoots under her nails before going to Tim Geithner and the Treasury for help,” said Camden R. Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers. “She’d do just about anything before going there.”
Instead, the FDIC will con the taxpayers. The FDIC has no choice under existing policy, of course, but to pay off depositors of failing banks. They should just be honest about how who is paying for it.